Insight 11 - June 2014 - page 6

04
In1986,MiriamRothschild
recalledundertaking scientific
trainingmid-20th century:
“Lookingbackon thefirst half ofmy lifeas
a zoologist I amparticularly impressedby
one fact: noneof the teachers, lecturers, or
professorswithwhom I came into contact...
ever discussedwithme… theethicsof
zoology. ... Nooneever suggested that
one should respect the livesof animals
in the laboratoryor that they, andnot
theexperiments, however fascinating
and instructive,wereworthyof greater
consideration.”
I foundher statementprofound;myearly
(and frustrating) experiencewhile trainingas
a scientisthadbeen identical. Fiftyyearson
and littlehadchanged. Animals stillweremere
toolsused toobtaindata.Nothingmore.
Today, I am in theprivilegedpositionof
teachingenvironmental science students
and I am trying to change this in twoways.
Firstly, byurging studentswhomayone
dayundertakefield-basedwildlife research
toadhere toa set of guidelineswhich
makes respect for experimental animals
and their habitat unequivocal andworthy
of the ‘greater consideration’advocatedby
Rothschild.
Secondly, and the topicof this article,
byencouraging the freeexplorationof
numerous issues associatedwithanimal
experimentation. Generally speaking,
student perceptionsofwhat constitutes an
animal experiment reflectwidespreadmedia
portrayalsof animal-based research. That
is, all animal experimentation is conducted
in laboratories; experimentsusually involve
rodents; all experiments involveadegreeof
suffering (particularly inproduct-testing);
and, justification for the researchmay involve
a (future) beneficial outcome in termsof
advances inhumanor animal health.
Few consider ecological research involving
wildlifeas ‘animal experimentation’despite
theuseof intrusive capture, handling,
restraint andmeasurement techniquesBut
wildlife research is animal experimentation
and it is regulated in the sameways as
laboratory-based research. InAustralia
andelsewhere, obtainingpermission from
an institutional Animal EthicsCommittee
(AEC) to conductwildlife research follows
an identical process to that requiredof
biomedical researcherswhouse laboratory
animals. AnAEC rigorouslyassesses the
valueof all proposed research, taking
into consideration, amongmany things,
thewelfareof anyanimals subject to
experimentation.
Anexample is theTasmanianDevil,whose
populations are in rapiddeclineas a lethal
facial tumour disease spreads fromnorth-
ANIMAL
ethics
easternTasmania. Researcherswhomaybe
tracking the spreadof thediseasewould
need to trapand, perhaps, radio-collar
animals extensively. Theymust first seek
permission fromanAEC justifying their
chosenmethods against a suiteofwelfare
considerations inprecisely the sameway
asbiomedical researchersusing laboratory
animals to test anovel pharmaceutical
must. The rationale for theTasmanianDevil
research isobvious. At risk is theextinction
of auniqueAustralian carnivoreessential
to thehealthy functioningofTasmanian
myview
AssociateProfessorVaughan
Monamy,EnvironmentalScience
CourseCoordinatoratACU, looks
athowawildliferesearchercan
contributetothedebateonanimal
experimentation
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